By Carl Adamec
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Welcome to a sold-out Chase Family Arena on the campus of the University of Hartford as the No. 2-ranked University of Connecticut women’s basketball team takes on Hartford today (1 p.m., SNY).
It’s the first in-state road game for the Huskies (9-0) since they beat Fairfield 60-58 on Dec. 10, 1991. Pam Webber’s 3-point basket with 45.5 seconds left erased a one-point deficit and capped a 10-2 game-closing run. It’s also UConn’s first trip to Chase Family Arena since Dec. 23, 1990. The Huskies received 18 points from Wendy Davis and a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds from Kerry Bascom in a 57-43 win.
The Hawks (8-2) are coached by former UConn two-time All-American Jennifer Rizzotti, who was the Wade Trophy winner and the Associated Press national Player of the Year as a senior in 1996. In her 14th season at Hartford, she is the Hawks’ all-time leader in wins (263).
We’ve had a tough schedule and I’m really happy to be 8-2 right now looking at who we played and who we scheduled,” Rizzotti said. “We’ve really risen to the occasion this year.”
Hartford is 0-12 against UConn all-time, 0-7 under Rizzotti. UConn coach Geno Auriemma has never lost a game (34-0) against a team that had one of his former players or assistant coaches as a head or assistant coach.
The Hawks will be without guard Amber Bepko, who shares the team scoring lead at 10.5 points per game. The sophomore hurt her ankle during Friday’s practice. The severity of the injury is unknown. Senior Alex Hall will start in her place.
Hartford is 3-1 against ranked opponents at home under Rizzotti with wins over Brigham Young (60-43 on Dec. 2, 2006), Michigan State (54-51 on Dec. 22, 2007), and Louisville (62-50 on Nov. 17, 2009). All were ranked 23rd by the Associated Press and none has ever returned to Chase Family Arena. The loss came just last month to No. 18 St. John’s, 66-54. UConn is the highest-ranked team to ever to play at Hartford.
The deal between the schools is for three games, the first being today with the next two hosted by UConn.
After the game, the Huskies will head to their respective homes for Christmas before reuniting in California Wednesday. They play at No. 1 Stanford a week from today.
“You don’t look ahead,” UConn All-American Bria Hartley said. “You take it a step at a time, focus on the game, and after that be ready to go home.”